NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York taxi and car service companies started pulling vehicles off the road on Thursday as the fuel crunch deepened, with the vast majority of storm-hit service stations in the greater New York area now out of gasoline or without power.
Power outages and fuel shortages have forced many gasoline stations to shut, and now threaten efforts in New York and New Jersey to get back to business after Hurricane Sandy.
Many homes and businesses that have lost power are also reliant on gasoline and diesel run generators, including many of the Wall Street banks in lower Manhattan.
"We've had to cancel a lot of cars today because there's not enough gas," said Joue Balulu, a partner at Fone-A-Car in Brooklyn.
"It's affecting everybody. Our drivers have to go out to try and find gas."
In New Jersey, PSE&G says 780,000 homes and businesses were still without power, about 35 percent of their customers, down from 1.7 million impacted at the peak. On Wednesday gasoline retailer associations said more than 50 percent of service stations in New York and New Jersey were shut.
Much of lower Manhattan below 39th Street remains without power after an explosion at a Con Edison substation on the East River during the storm. Con Edison said on Wednesday it could be another three days until power is restored.
On a stretch of Route 206 through Bordentown, New Jersey on Wednesday, far more gas stations were closed than open.
The line at one of the few gas stations open, a Valero, extended from the pumps into the highway, blocking the shoulder.
The scene at a second Valero station was reminiscent of the 1973 U.S. oil crisis as 26 cars crowded around the pumps.
"Did you ever think you'd see this again?" one driver was heard saying through his car's open window.
Fuel supplies into New York and New Jersey area are being choked off in several ways: Two refineries that make up a quarter of the region's gasoline and diesel capacity are still idle due to power outages or flooding; the New York Harbor waterway that imports a fifth of the area's fuel is still closed to traffic, and major import terminals are damaged and powerless.
The main pipeline bringing gasoline and diesel from the U.S. Gulf Coast refining hub, which pumps 15 percent of the East Coast's fuel, also remains shut.
Reporting by David Sheppard in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley